First year chemistry teaching in health and life sciences degree programmes

William Hagan, Stephen McClean, David Ruddick

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

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In the department of Biomedical Sciences at the University of Ulster the teaching ofchemistry to students enrolled on a variety of degree programmes covering a range ofsubjects in the Life and Health Sciences, has historically presented a problem due tothe wide range of entry qualifications held by students. As a minimum the students maybe expected to hold a GCSE pass or its equivalent in the Irish Leaving certificatequalification. Exceptionally there may be students enrolled on our degree programmeswho have had no experience of specific single subject chemistry teaching. Our aim isto ensure that our first year undergraduates have the necessary competence, in certainrelevant areas of chemistry, to progress satisfactorily through higher level moduleswhere chemistry is an essential pre-requisite.The identification of additional competencies, which are essential to the successfulstudy of chemistry at degree level, led us to the conclusion that a familiarity with certainkey areas of mathematics is unavoidable. A number of teaching strategies have beendeveloped which support the traditional lecture and tutorial teaching sessions for thosestudents with little prior experience of mathematics and advanced chemistry.Apart from student performance in the coursework and examination components of thefirst semester chemistry module, which is the main indicator of the efficacy of ourteaching strategies, we have incorporated an advanced multivariate statistical analysisof the performance of a variety of student groups within the cohort. These groups areidentified by the nature of their prior educational experience and entry qualifications.This sophisticated analysis of performance against prior experience across the cohortis a key element in our monitoring and evaluation of the strategies, which we havedeveloped to achieve a common level of chemistry competence across the cohort.The teaching strategies and module evaluation techniques employed will be presentedin detail together with further developments to be trialled in the academic year 2006-2007. This approach has enabled us to improve the module pass rate from 73% forthe academic year 2004-2005 to 91% for the 2005-2006 session.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown Host Publication
PublisherUlster University
Number of pages14
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 4 Sept 2006
EventChallenge and Change in the Higher Education Learning Environment: Process and Practice - Magee Campus, Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Duration: 4 Sept 2006 → …


ConferenceChallenge and Change in the Higher Education Learning Environment: Process and Practice
Period4/09/06 → …


  • chemistry
  • statistics
  • multivariate
  • evaluation
  • boxplot.


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